Playing a video game that's finished and released to the public is one thing, but what if you could give titles a play-through while they were still in active development? Starting today, Valve is giving users of its Steam platform just that opportunity. Steam Early Access is a new initiative that lets gamers purchase, play, and offer feedback on games before their underlying code has been finalized. The program is kicking off with 12 titles (including one called Drunken Robot Pornography) from a variety of developers.

Give feedback on what you like (and what you don't)

Of the first batch of games, only one is offered for free, with most falling somewhere between $6.99 and $32.99 depending on their scope. Keep in mind that although included titles aren't completed yet, Early Access lets you experience games in their entirety throughout the development process — these aren't merely glorified demos or trials. "These are games that evolve as you play them, as you give feedback, and as the developers update and add content," writes Valve on a page explaining the new program. "We like to support and encourage developers who want to ship early, involve customers, and build lasting relationships that help everyone make better games."

Early Access grants participating developers plenty of flexibility; they can discount a game still in its early stages only to hike the price up as development concludes, for instance. Gamers are encouraged to provide feedback, post in discussion forums, capture screenshots, and even write guides depending on what a developer is looking for. None of that is required, of course, but what's the fun in that? You'll want to head here for the list of Steam's first dozen Early Access games.